Remembering the deadly blizzard of 1923 in Moffat County
As Craig deals with the tail end of an epic winter, few residents will remember the deadly blizzard of 1923 that killed a father and his 13-year-old daughter 100 years ago this month.
The front page headline in the March 22, 1923, Craig Courier read: “Two homesteaders perish in blinding storm,” as the article reported the deaths of Jay Sorric and his daughter Thelma, who failed to make it home from a trip to Craig and froze to death about 20 miles north of the city.
The information for this article was pieced together from old newspapers with help from the Museum of Northwest Colorado and its digitized records. The museum has been working to digitize old, local newspapers from 1891 to the 1940s. The newspapers are kept at the ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.org, which is accessible to anyone. By June, the local newspaper records should extend up to 1982.
According to the pair’s death certificates, Thelma Sorric died March 21, 1923, and Samuel “Jay” Sorric died one day later. The old newspapers are imperfect, and there are some discrepancies from one report to another. Still, the overarching story remains intact.
Based on multiple accounts of the tragic snowstorm, Jay Sorric lived with his wife and their six children after he had come to the country with high hopes, $6,000, a few cows, horses and farm machinery. However, Sorric wasn’t growing enough feed for his livestock, and he would often have to supplement the animals’ feed with hay purchased in town.
According to the article in the Craig Courier, Sorric and his daughter had left to buy a load of hay in Craig when the blizzard came upon them suddenly. While returning from the trip, the pair arrived at the Peterson ranch later in the afternoon, and turning the jaded team of horses off the main road, attempted to get on to Sorric’s home several miles away.
“Evidently the horses, tired from the long trip to Craig and back, gave out and a short distance from the main road, he was unhooked from the sled and with his daughter started on toward their home riding horseback,” the article states.
The article says the rest of the story can only be surmised, as it was believed the pair became confused in the terrible blizzard, which separated them and left them lost in the darkness and the storm.
After a night of waiting, Jay Sorric’s wife got word to her nearest neighbors that her husband and eldest daughter had not returned. A search ensued, and two boys — ages 18 and 15 — found Jay Sorric’s body less than three quarters of a mile from his home. His horse in the mean time had already come on home.
At the time, Sorric was unconscious, and there was still evidence of life in him. He was rushed to his home in an effort to render aid, but Sorric died the next day.
After finding the father, the two boys started to look for the missing girl and found her lifeless body about half a mile from her home. Her horse was nearby, stuck in a deep snow drift, and evidently she had either fallen from it or had dismounted expecting to walk home. The article says her body was covered in snow with only her feet visible above her white shroud.
“They stand very high in their community and the tragic deaths of the father and daughter have awakened sympathy in the hearts of their neighbors,” the article reads.
In 1923, the widow and her remaining children were reportedly left in destitute circumstances, as Mrs. Sorric was crippled with rheumatism. The father and daughter were buried in Craig, and their grave markers can be found at Craig cemetery today, though the listed year of their deaths is incorrect on their grave markers.
“When such tragedy as this stalks in a community, the hearts of the public are stirred and purse strings are loosened,” the Courier article concludes. “Like many homesteaders, the Sorrics found life in Moffat County a hard grind. With a large family of little children and an ailing wife, the father was hard put to provide the necessary means for their support and the sudden dropping of the curtain left the mother and five remaining children in financial hardship.
“Craig, which is ever ready to respond to every worthy call, not as a matter of charity, but because its people are big hearted, generous folk, whose religion is that of doing good work as well as singing, raised a purse of nearly $50 besides assisting in other material ways, the contribution being given to the grieving family.”
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